June 23, 2011

Collard Wraps

We've been receiving collard greens almost weekly in our CSA, and the hot weather calls for something other than hours of steaming and braising. We recently started trying a new-to-us concept-- using the large round leaves as substitutes for tortillas or other carby wraps. After a few tries, I think we have the technique perfected. So the next question is- what goes inside? To us, the green wraps call for something a little different. I taste tested three recipes and loved them all. Here they are!

Operation Collard Wrap: Take #1

J picked out this recipe as inspiration, since she loves the vegan chicken salad at Whole Foods. This cashew based mix tastes surprisingly like the real deal.

Chicken Cashew Salad

Makes enough for 2-3 wraps

1/2 cup cashews (raw or roasted, no or reduced salt)
1 stalk celery
1/4 onion
juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove
1 tsp dried thyme
lots of fresh ground pepper

Disclaimer: My DSLR camera went on a European vacation, so I've been stuck with a point and shoot. Help!

Easy, peasy: combine all of the above in a food processor and give it a whirl. Add a drizzle of olive oil or water if it seems too thick, but don't go too crazy- you want a thicker, chunkier consistency (especially if you want to fool yourself into thinking nuts are chicken).

Oops, a little watery.

In the meantime, get a pot of water boiling- collard leaves can be used raw, but we prefer to blanch them to soften them up a bit. Prepare your leaves by rinsing them and trimming the stem to the bottom of the leaf. You can also make your life easier by carefully slicing off the thick part of the stem horizontal to the leaf to ease folding.

Once the water is boiling, submerge your leaves and let them go for about 2-3 minutes. I played around with the blanching time, and learned that if you leave them in longer (7-8 minutes), they are more palatable but tear easier. It's your call.

When they're done, remove and rinse with cool water, shake to remove excess moisture. Lay flat and assemble the goods in the middle of the leaf. With the chicken salad, we added pea shoots and avocado slices- keeping things cool and fresh.

Wrapping of the leaf is easy to do but difficult to take pictures of single-handedly. First, fold both sides in and over.

With your other hand, grasp the bottom edge and pull up and over the folded sides.

Continue pulling until you can tuck the leading edge over the pile, then roll the bundle forward over the final (top) edge. This is definitely a two handed, sometimes messy process. I usually find myself helplessly stuffing the overflowing filling with one hand while pulling the leaf over it with the other. Somehow, I am usually successful at fitting at least a small child into one collard leaf.

I highly recommend then cutting your log wrap in half, for more manageable eating.

Operation Collard Wrap: Take #2

For my second go, I used a very similar technique, taking advantage of my food processor to produce another baby food filled wrap. I mean, Beet-Chickpea-Carrot Hummus wrap (inspired by this recipe).

BCC Hummus

Makes enough for 4-6 wraps

4-5 small (or 2 large) beets, preferably yellow or golden (canned or roasted)
1 c. roughly chopped or baby carrots
1 c. chickpeas (canned or cooked, your choice)
juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping Tbsp. tahini
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove
salt + pepper
fresh herb of choice (parsley, oregano, basil)

I made this wrap twice, using red beets and parsley first, and then baby Chioggia (more of a golden beet) and oregano for the second round. If you'd like an earthier, bright red mix, go with the first combo; if you want a sweet, subtle flavor go with the latter. Beet roasting trick: trim and scrub, then wrap each whole beet in tin foil and place in the oven for 45 minutes at 450 degrees. The foil helps keep the vegetables moist and practically steams them out of their skins- you don't HAVE to peel them for this recipe though.

Once again, combine all of the above ingredients in the food processor-- for a thicker consistency, you can grate the carrots and add them in once the blending has finished.

Add the mix to your leaf and top with assorted vegetables of choice- though tomato, cucumber, and avocado can do no wrong.

Roll up and enjoy-- remember, Left. Right. Bottom. Tuck. Roll. Cut. Eat.

Operation Collard Wrap: Final Mission

For my last collard experiment, I decided to pander to my meat-eating friends/family/readers, but opted for another somewhat unusual filling, with a bit of an Israeli inspiration. I wanted to make a ground beef mix and combine it with cauliflower "rice" but the cauliflower that arrived in my CSA wasn't exactly what I was expecting.

I went with what I had though, and combined ground beef, chopped onion, sliced mushrooms, and the cauliflower (finely chopped) in a pan with a little olive oil, garam masala, garlic, coriander, salt and pepper. After everything was cooked through and nicely softened, I added it to my blanched leaf and topped it with diced dried apricots and cashews. A little bit of an impromptu and strange combination, but it really worked.

Super flavorful, with the sweetness of the apricots and the crunch of the cashews playing equally important roles. As much as I hate to admit it, this one might have been my favorite. I truly believe using a typical flour wrap would have overwhelmed the flavors and textures here-- the softened collard leaf was practically flavorless and served as a perfect vehicle for the spicy meat to travel into my mouth.

You can bet what I'm putting on our recipe list next time we get collards from our CSA-- and now you can use these greens in a summer friendly manner, too. They're also great for picnics-- leaves can't get soggy, so they pack, store, and travel well.


  1. I wish I liked Collard Greens. What a neat idea!

    But I really wanted to come by and let you know your ring is gorgeous! Congrats again! :)

  2. I might be biased, but I honestly don't think the collard flavor is apparent! You can also do something similar with large cabbage leaves if you like cabbage :)

    And thank you-- that's so sweet!

  3. Been eating collard wraps, too. If you don't want the stove on too long, I just boil 2 cups or so of water in a tea kettle (doesn't take as long) and just pour the hot water over the leaves in a bowl, then slosh the leaves around in the hot water. Also, two collard leaves overlapping, stem ends in opposite directions lets you make humungous rolls.